OC tabs Graves as coach

OC tabs Graves as coach

By MIKE HUTCHENS
Messenger Sports Editor
The ‘vacancy’ sign with the Obion County Central baseball program didn’t hang for long.
OCCHS Athletic Director Craig Rogers confirmed to The Messenger this morning that Joe Graves is the new Rebel head coach.
Central ended its tumultuous 2012 season just a couple of days ago with a first round District 13AA Tournament loss, closing a campaign that saw the Rebs finish with a 7-17 record.
Head coach Chris Smith was relieved of his duties with two weeks remaining in the regular season and interim skipper Justin Truett went just 1-6 in his tenure with losses in the team’s final five outings.
Graves will be the eighth head coach in the 34-year history of the program.
Graves, who has tutored many area youths in pitching and baseball fundamentals with private lessons and as owner of The Strike Zone over the past several years, will teach math at Obion County Central.
The coaching responsibility will be his first on the prep level.
Rogers said he received “25 or 30” inquiries about the job, including calls, resumes and emails.
“We felt like Joe’s someone who can come in who has great baseball knowledge and can give our program the leadership it needs,” Rogers said of Graves.
A Murray, Ky., native, Graves first attended Union University on a baseball scholarship before transferring to East Tennessee State in Johnson City, where he pitched for a pair of Southern Conference championship teams that advanced to the NCAA Regionals.
Graves signed as a free agent and played professionally in the New York Mets minor league chain with franchise icons Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry where he was part of three championship teams in the parent club’s minor league farm system.
He also pitched in the minors for the Montreal Expos and had short stints with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees before rotator cuff surgery ended his playing career.
Graves’ wife, Anne, and his two children, Jake and McCall, all are products of the Obion County School System.
The 53-year-old Graves told The Messenger this morning he is “intrigued” by the opportunity to head the OC program.
“I think there’s some talent there, and I’m excited about seeing what we can do,” he claimed.
Graves will face a challenge of rebuilding a Rebel program than has now endured eight straight losing seasons.
Obion Central is 91 games under .500 during that time and has not advanced out of the district tournament over that span.
Central’s last winning season came in 2004 when John Buchanan led the program to a 21-14 mark and the regional semifinals.
OCCHS has made three trips to the state tournament in the annals of baseball at the school — the last in 1997 when Buchanan directed the Rebels to a fourth-place finish in Class 2A and a 19-7 overall mark.
Barry Barnett was the Rebels’ first head coach and piloted the fortunes during its most-successful days from 1979-82.
In ’81, Obion Central posted a spectacular 29-1 record, its only loss in the state quarterfinals.
The next season, the Rebs went 24-6 and made it to the TSSAA Class 2A state semifinals.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by email at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 5.4.12

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